Our first morning in Barcelona was spent in our space-themed hotel room at Barceló Sants. When we finally emerged at 1 PM, we were famished and opted for the nearest food — the hotel restaurant.
We were the only patrons and weren’t sure if we were early or late for the lunch hour. After a few misunderstandings due to our
limited non-existent Spanish, we were seated and enjoyed a delicious 3-course lunch. I think wine was included in our meal (as we later learned is customary with 3-course meals in Spain), and our server was quite shocked when we declined the carafe. She didn’t know that we were still recovering from Germany.
Since we had gotten up at 1 PM and just finished lunch, it was time for siesta. When in Spain, do as the Spaniards. You really can’t get enough sleep!
The main reason for including Spain on the 30/40 World Tour was to attend VaughanTown. It’s an English immersion program for Spaniards in various locations throughout Spain. The program (including 4-star-hotel accommodations and meals) is free for native English speakers, who are there to help increase the fluency of Spanish business people.
Before meeting up with the VaughanTown group in Madrid, we planned to spend 4 days in Barcelona. We figured that it would be easiest and perhaps cheaper to get our train ticket from Barcelona to Madrid while in Spain. So obtaining those train tickets was on our agenda. We were staying above the train station, so how hard could it be?
It was so much harder than we ever imagined. But we had an inflexible schedule at this point and needed those tickets.
Our first attempt was online. Mr. HalfFull was able to see the various times and prices. He decided that a slow overnight train was our best option because it was less expensive and would save us on a night at a hotel. He tried several times to book it online, but our credit card never seemed to go through.
At this point, we weren’t too worried. We just headed down to the train station to buy tickets at the counter. We saw one area with about 10 windows where people took numbers and waited to be called. It seemed rather crowded, so we went to the shorter line on the other side of the station. After waiting for our turn, we were told that this line was only for same day tickets and we needed to wait in the other line.
Too bad we just wasted time in line, but no big deal. We went over to the other line and took a number. Then we discovered that there were 150 numbers in front of us! It was already 4 PM and unlikely that all those people would be served by closing time. Plus, we had sites to see. We decided to try again via the website from our hotel room in the evening. Hopefully, the site would work better this time.
Mr. HalfFull was so nervous about us not getting to Madrid on time that he stayed up all night trying to use our credit cards on the website. He even set an alarm to try at various hours to see if that made a difference. But the transaction always failed. (We later learned from comments online that only cards issued in Spain will work. It would have been nice if the website had that info!)
Worrying is usually reserved for me. Mr. HalfFull is generally the one who tries to ease me out of my tizzy. But the roles were reversed!
We finally decided that the only way to ensure that we get tickets and don’t spend all day waiting in the train station was to be in line before the ticket counter opened at 6 AM. Apparently, a bunch of other people also had this idea. Fortunately, it wasn’t another 150 people.
With tickets in hand, Mr. HalfFull was finally able to relax. Travel within Spain is not as easy as you might think. We’ll tell you the tale of the actual train ride from Barcelona to Madrid in an upcoming post. For now, let’s just say it was certainly another adventure.
- Do you make travel plans before leaving home?
- Have you had difficulty with your home country credit card in a foreign country?
- Have you experienced a painfully difficult time purchasing tickets abroad?
- Are you surprised that Mr. HalfFull was losing sleep over our tickets?